Bugatti Type 50: The autobiography of Bugatti’s first Le Mans car

Bugatti Type 50 first Le Mans car
Bugatti Type 50 first Le Mans car

Bugatti Type 50: The autobiography of Bugatti’s first Le Mans car

by Mark Morris (Author), Julius Kruta (Author)

With the launch of the Molsheim marque’s first twin-cam version, a supercharged 4.9-litre straight-eight engine of prodigious power, the Bugatti Type 50 ushered in a new age. A competition version was created when brute force was needed to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, and three such Type 50s competed in 1931. The car featured in this book, 50177, led the famous endurance race when the team withdrew it due to tyre failures in the sister vehicles, one of which crashed heavily at high speed.

This beautifully researched and superbly illustrated book in the Great Cars series tells the fascinating tale of 50177 and the Type 50 in general. Introduction chapters describe the economically precarious world of 1931, Ettore and Jean Bugatti’s creativity, the bloodline of large-capacity Bugatti engines, and the Type 46 from which the Type 50 was derived. An in-depth look at the Type 50’s design and production, including the Miller inspiration for the twin-cam engine, follows.

The four Le Mans races in which Type 50s competed shape the book’s centre and tell a tale of hope that was never realised. The subject car, 50177, competed in three races: in 1931 as a works entry in race no. 5 (driven by Albert Divo and Guy Bouriat), and in 1934 and 1935 with works assistance as no. 2 (driven by Albert Divo and Guy Bouriat) (driven by Pierre Veyron and Roger Labric). The four men who raced 50177 and the four others in the 1931 works team โ€” Louis Chiron and Achille Varzi in no. 4 and Maurice Rost and Count Caberto Conelli in no. 6 โ€” are featured in an illustrated biographies section. Luigi Chinetti, a three-time Le Mans winner, purchased 50177 in 1949 and sent it to the United States, where it spent nearly 50 years with five different owners. Miles Coverdale, a devoted Bugatti collector who kept the car for 23 years and uncovered much of its history through correspondence with former works mechanics, especially Robert Aumaรฎtre, was the last of them.

In this excellent book, co-authors Mark Morris and Julius Kruta, who are well-known in the Bugatti world for their extensive experience and enthusiasm, provide a wealth of new details and illustrations.

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Penelope Hunter in “Twentieth Century Art.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965-1975. New York, 1975, p. 226, ill. Philippe Garner in The Amazing Bugattis. Exh. cat., Royal College of Art, London. New York, 1979, p. 20, ill. (not this version).

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